Monday, May 11, 2009

stinging nettles 23, me 1

Ha stinging nettles! It is time I begin to even the score. For years now you have brushed my bare legs while hiking, leaving me with a not so pleasant burning sensation. Well, your ass is mine now. I've implemented a plan to use some fermentation to put your poison to work.
For me.
Yeah, you heard it.

Going on a few years now, I've wanted to harvest nettles in the spring and make some pasta with it. They grow all over the place around here (if you look in the right places that is) and thanks to a yearly ritual of camping out for Mother's Day, I know where to find them. Finally, this year, I'm doing something with them. It ain't pasta though.
It's beer. (Is this really a surprise?)

I bought a book a while back called Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. (With a title like that, what's not to like?) But really, I bought it to have some mead recipes and guidance for fermentation experimentation. Well, I was reading about nettles healing properties toward arthritic and rheumatic conditions and thinking about collecting them, when I ran across a few beer recipes. Sweet! Then I remembered that my wife has been having a bothersome hip that the doctor chalked up to "getting older." Hell, if at our age aches and pains don't just mean cure them anymore, but more like just deal with it, then sheeeeiiittt, it couldn't hurt putting a little hand gathered medicine into some beer and using it as a curative tonic now, could it?

Gathered and washed, they weren't so tough looking. More like fuzzy and maybe even working toward approachable. It took me a few versions of latex and gardening gloves in conjunction with some fresh burning and mild swearing before I figured out my technique, but, hey, I like learning things the hard way sometimes. With the ouchie part over, now I'll tend to the brew by keeping it in the "happy range" of yeastie beastie temperatures. Then I'll bottle it. Then I'll drink it. Whether it works for my sweetie's hip or not, only time will tell. What I know for sure is that the tide has turned for the nettles. I've scored my first point of my life against them. And when that first sip of the curative brew hits my lips, I'll give myself another point. Then I'll take another sip. Then I'll give myself another point and soon there after, probably forget all about any aches and pains.

Already, the stings don't seem so bad.........

Mid-June Update:

Oooooh, Maaah, Gaaaah, this stuff is nuts! And crazy. Crazy, but like, good. Part brown ale, part root beer, with a strong yeast profile, definite hoppy-ness and that vegetal something or other from the nettles, it somehow still manages to fall firmly within the beery camp. The first sip tried was loaded with anticipation, but we jumped the gun and tried a touch too early. It wasn't quite carbonated right and the flavors still seemed a bit separate. Kinda like chili the first day sometimes. Then a week later, while enjoying this deliciousness of super beefy burger on homemade buns with thyme sauteed summer squash, we tried it again. It was just right. All the crazy flavors working together.
Nettles, your days are numbered.


Mimi said...

There is a pizza place a couple of towns away that sautee's the stinging beasties and uses them as a yummy pizza topping. Just thought you'd like to know that since pizza goes so well with beer.

Devany said...

When we lived in the East Bay (till January when we moved to Hawaii) I always wanted to try doing something with the stinging nettles, but just never got around to it. I enjoyed doing it vicariously through your post. We had lots of these buggers on our lot and they were always bugging me when I touched them.

~devany, Hilo, HI

Monkey Wrangler said...

Mimi: Once I get the cob oven rebuilt, I'm gonna go collect some more of the bastards and cook their tender leaves atop some pizza. YEAH!

Devany: Hey, thanks for dropping by! Glad you could do some vicarious living. Especially good thing to do considering the nettles stings.

Oh, checked out the blog. Damn! Hilo? I'll be checking in from now on......